Phillies' bats finally wake up in 8-5 win over Arizona Diamondbacks
Hunter Pence stood in the corner of the visiting clubhouse at Chase Field, lifted his left arm over his shoulder, and smiled. This was three hours before he belted a two-run shot Tuesday that ignited a comatose Phillies offense and roughly six hours after he lay in an MRI tube.
PHOENIX — Hunter Pence stood in the corner of the visiting clubhouse at Chase Field, lifted his left arm over his shoulder, and smiled. This was three hours before he belted a two-run shot Tuesday that ignited a comatose Phillies offense and roughly six hours after he lay in an MRI tube.
"I typically heal really fast," he said. "I don't know what it is, but I just do."
Most of the Phillies, including manager Charlie Manuel, came to the ballpark expecting to play Tuesday's 8-5 victory over Arizona without their cleanup hitter again. A sore shoulder Monday made pulling his jersey over his head difficult, let alone swinging a bat.
Five trivial runs in the ninth inning Monday may have provided confidence, but the ultimate boost came Tuesday when Pence's name was written on the lineup card.
"He's playing?" one teammate said incredulously.
He played, and he announced his presence by swinging at the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning, an 88 m.p.h. Josh Collmenter fastball on the outside edge. It barely cleared the right-field fence and Justin Upton's glove.
At once, the Phillies could breathe. This season-long road trip has tested them, no matter how much baseball remains and how many reinforcements could arrive. Pence's bomb wasn't a silver lining. It produced meaningful runs and a lead — finally. To snap a three-game losing streak, the Phillies mashed a season-high three home runs.
"We've got a long season to go, and this team has a lot of potential," Pence said. "It hasn't come together yet, but it's April. We got knocked down. We've got to keep getting back up, and hopefully we get on a roll and start knocking some other people down."
The Phillies did not win pretty, but it's better than the alternative. After Pence's shot, Laynce Nix followed with a two-run homer, and the Phillies posted a four-spot in the fourth inning. (It should be noted that Collmenter, the Arizona starter, entered Tuesday with a 10.22 ERA. Thus, the Phillies have mastered hitting Diamondbacks pitchers with double-digit ERAs.)
Nix hadn't started in six days and went 3 for 3 with two runs scored.
"If you swing the bat like that, I like you," Manuel said. "I'll fall in love with you quick."
Manuel also played a hunch in starting Pete Orr, who batted all of seven times this season, at second base. Orr's time has been so limited that he frequently acts as a pretend hitter during Phillies pitchers' bullpen sessions to see live tosses.
"Now that I'm older," Orr said, "I'm able to mentally keep myself fresh."
He cleared the bases in the seventh with a triple. Orr had played in 396 major-league games before Tuesday; not once did he drive in three runs. He now has more extra-base hits in 2012 (four) than Jimmy Rollins (three) in 59 fewer at-bats. Shane Victorino later added the final insurance run, a solo blast off former Phillies lefty Mike Zagurski.
It all supported a solid outing by Vance Worley, who completed six innings without his best stuff. Typically, with the Phillies offense, that portends disaster.
They were boosted by Pence, who arrived early to the ballpark and told Manuel he could play. Manuel said fine and ordered him to take swings in the cage with head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and hitting coach Greg Gross watching. Playing Tuesday became a reality.
Pence's injury was officially diagnosed as a bruised left rotator cuff, suffered when he dove for a ball Sunday. The MRI revealed no structural damage. As long as Pence could tolerate the pain, he could assume his cleanup spot in the Phillies lineup. He did.
"I didn't expect to have him," Manuel said.
Granted a lead, Worley squeaked through the fifth without his best stuff and needed 92 pitches to record 15 outs. As he started the sixth and allowed a leadoff single to Miguel Montero, Jose Contreras warmed in the bullpen. But Worley prevailed and completed the inning at 110 pitches, the fourth most of his career.
Before winning, Manuel made the 30-second walk from his office to the batting cage to see Pence test his shoulder. He saw enough to write Pence's name into the lineup.
"There was no sense in me going over there," Manuel said, "and talking to him about his hitting."